New York Boss Gets the Max Sentence for Vote Rigging

N.Y. trial judge Bonnie G. Wittner sentenced Albert A. Diop, an ex-int’l vice president of the Am. Fed’n of State, County & Mun. Employees and ex-boss in AFSCME Dist. Council 37 in N.Y., Aug. 28 to the maximum sentence, sixteen to forty-eight months in jail, for helping to rig a 1996 union contract vote. Diop still faces trial on separate charges that he embezzled over $1 million for personal purposes, including a penthouse suite, credit card charges, and equipment to try to detect listening devices in DC37 offices during a Manhattan Dist. Atty probe. If convicted of grand larceny, he could face twenty-fives years in jail.

Diop was once a top adviser to DC37 boss Stanley Hill and president of AFSCME Local 1549, for which he received $209,000 annually. He was charged in 1999 with ordering subordinates to alter ballots to win ratification of a five-year city contract. Before Wittner,  Diop, appearing frail, said he was “sorry and ashamed” and then recounted his success as a union boss. Then in a barely audible voice, he said, “I am innocent of any wrongdoing.”  Wittner told him that “shame is normally the first step toward admitting your guilt…I don’t believe you’re sorry or ashamed.” She said: you “violated the trust of [the] membership” and “[w]ithout your participation, this whole scheme couldn’t have taken place.” She added: “You misused your high union position. I don’t find anything really mitigating.”

Diop’s attorney, Ramon W. Pagan, said that he would appeal, because Diop had been found unfit to stand trial by court-appointed psychologists. But after several hospitalizations for depression, he was deemed well enough to proceed to trial. Pagan also alleged other bosses had “bought their freedom” by falsely implicating Diop. Because Diop has already served ten months in jail, Pagan said that he could be released within two and a half months, but that he would need time to prepare for the next trial. [N.Y. Times, N.Y. Post, Daily News 8/29/01]